Why Boston Dynamics' New Robot Scares the Crap out of Us

Handle, the latest robot from Google-backed Boston Dynamics, elicits both excitement and anxiety. The company's founder has described it as "nightmare-inducing." 

Perhaps singularity is a little too near


The latest video by robot developer Boston Dynamics, which seems to always coincide with a rise of Terminator references, has elicited a wide range of strong emotional reactions. The new robot, Handle (because it will be handling objects), brings forth a sense of awe for its speed, agility, strength, and ability to jump. At the same time, the machine's impressiveness brings forward deep-seated fears of robots-gone-wild. 

We don't want the student to become the master.

"This is the debut presentation of what I think will be a nightmare-inducing robot."-Boston Dynamics' founder Marc Raibert, introducing Handle at a private event in late January 2017. 

It is easy to picture Handle as either:

1. A benevolent robot working alongside human employees in a warehouse. (Bonus: no sore back from lifting all of those heavy boxes.)

2. A weaponized robot deployed by militaries. (I wouldn't want to go up against Handle in a human vs machine version of BattleBots.)

Raibert was right in his prediction that Handle would be viewed as nightmare-inducing, with a flurry of comments online expressing a certain level of anxiety. 

New @BostonDynamics Handle #robot is a parkour master; I'm delighted & horrified in equal measure. https://t.co/ZF1YJ1dB5A #bostondynamics pic.twitter.com/239r50N03b

— Ian Keddie (@IanJKeddie) February 27, 2017

"It’s almost like a Rorschach type of thing really. I mean we fundamentally don’t know what a superhuman AI is going to do and that’s the truth of it, right. And then if you tend to be an optimist you will focus on the good possibilities. If you tend to be a worried person who’s pessimistic you’ll focus on the bad possibilities. If you tend to be a Hollywood movie maker you focus on scary possibilities maybe with a happy ending because that’s what sells movies. We don’t know what’s going to happen."-Ben Goertzel, AI researcher 

===

Want to connect with me? Reach out @TechEthicist and on Facebook

Trusting your instincts is lazy: Poker pro Liv Boeree on Big Think Edge

International poker champion Liv Boeree teaches decision-making for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to make decisions with the clarity of a World Series Poker Champion.
  • Liv Boeree teaches analytical thinking for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Stress is contagious–but resilience can be too

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Brazilian scientists produce mini-brains with eyes

Using a new process, a mini-brain develops retinal cells.

Surprising Science
  • Mini-brains, or "neural organoids," are at the cutting edge of medical research.
  • This is the first one that's started developing eyes.
  • Stem cells are key to the growing of organoids of various body parts.
Keep reading Show less

5 short podcasts to boost your creativity and success

These quick bursts of inspiration will brighten your day in 10 minutes or less.

Personal Growth

Podcasts can educate us on a variety of topics, but they don't have to last an hour or more to have an impact on the way you perceive the world. Here are five podcasts that will boost your creativity and well-being in 10 minutes or less.

Keep reading Show less